Blunkett: Teachers must instil politeness

David Blunkett is urging schools to lead a new drive to instil "old-fashioned values of politeness and respect" in the next generation.

The Secretary of State for Education told the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers yesterday he wanted children to learn "respect, right and wrong". He urged heads to exercise their power to expel seriously violent and disruptive pupils, despite government targets to cut exclusions by one-third by 2002.

Addressing the union's annual conference in Llandudno,he said teachers should have "zero tolerance" of bad language. "Obscenity and foulness are the prerequisites for thuggishness and brutality. If we can reduce one we stand a chance of reducing another."

Mr Blunkett announced a £9m package of "dowries" worth £3,000 a pupil to encourage schools to take on children who had been excluded. He also said 60 specialist units would be set up to deal with disruptive children in primary schools. The minister criticised heads who "managed out" disruptive children by passing them on to neighbouring schools.

He was applauded when he attacked parents for failing to support teachers who tried to impose order on schools. "Parents carry the prime responsibility for the behaviour of their children. No teacher should have to put up with the kind of behaviour of the tiny minority of parents who make teachers' lives a misery and on some occasions resent the civilising influence of the school on the children because it is different from their lifestyles at home.

"You will get my backing in tackling that head-on. We expect the co-operation of parents and families, not simply in the discipline and behaviour of children in school but also in terms of their more general approach to adults and others. We must try to instil a bit of politeness and decency into the behaviour of the next generation."

Mr Blunkett was scathing about members of the rival National Union of Teachers who heckled Estelle Morris, the School Standards minister, at their conference at Harrogate on Saturday. He said: "No one can talk about discipline and examples and behave in the way they did."

Mr Blunkett also announced a crackdown on bad behaviour and ill-discipline, promising to increase to 1,000 learning support units in schools to deal with the most difficult youngsters.The £47m package also includes extra grants for selfcontained pupil referral units. He said: "When heads need to act toughly to deal with disruptive or violent pupils they have my support. They have my support to take such youngsters out of the classroom and where necessary to exclude them from the school."

Teachers who volunteer to help to turn round some of Britain's toughest schools are to be given guarantees that their jobs are safe for at least three years, Mr Blunkett said. He wanted to offer extra job security to staff who accepted jobs in "fresh start" schools and those threatened with closure.